My Disney Top 5 - Things to Love About the Magic Kingdom

by Chris Barry, staff writer

Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.

There are so many reasons to love the Disney parks and resorts but this is, after all, a Top 5 column. That being said, over the past few years I’ve had to narrow it down and find 5 reasons to love each of the four Walt Disney World parks and as many of the resorts as I could honestly write about. This series of articles has come to be known, at least in my head, as my “Reasons to Love Series.” As far as the Walt Disney World parks, I’ve tackled Epcot and Animal Kingdom so far. When it comes to the resorts that I have stayed at, I’ve covered the Polynesian, Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans-Riverside and the BoardWalk.

It’s not easy to list only 5 reasons to love the Walt Disney World parks. That is especially true with the one I’m covering today: the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World’s first theme park is definitely my favorite. It appeals to the little kid that’s still so prevalent inside of me while making the adult in me tremendously happy as well. That’s not an easy line to walk, but the Magic Kingdom handles this task beautifully. Like many of you out there, it was the first of the Walt Disney World parks that I ever walked into and it’s still the first one that I visit each time we return. The Magic Kingdom is the very heart and soul of Walt Disney World. It took Walt’s original vision of Disneyland and amplified it and glorified it. Even legendary Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter has been quoted saying, “Disneyland in California is charming while the Magic Kingdom in Florida is spectacular.”

So let’s see just what he means and what I mean when I list the Top 5 Things to Love About the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

5 – The Disney Mountains

Two of the Magic Kingdom mountains. Photo by Chris Barry.

I love so many of the attractions at the Magic Kingdom. Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are all big time favorites for me. But it’s the legendary trio of mountains where my fun and adventure really begin. Big Thunder Mountain is probably the most fun you can ever have on a roller coaster. I challenge you to not smile after riding this one. It’s neighbor Splash Mountain is, at least for me, the ultimate Disney attraction. It’s got fantastic detail, great music, classic characters and more than a few thrills. Tomorrowland’s Space Mountain is probably my favorite roller coaster anywhere. I love the dark. I love the effects. I love the whole futuristic space theme. It’s an absolute blast! In my eyes, any one of these attractions would make a park worth admission. To have all three in one place is just fantastic.

4 – Fantasyland/New Fantasyland

The Tangled rest area of Fantasyland. Photo by Chris Barry.

As I mentioned above, it’s said that the Magic Kingdom is the heart of Walt Disney World. Couldn’t it be said though that Fantasyland is really the true heart of the whole resort? After all, this is where the children go to escape and see an elephant fly and a mermaid sing. This is where you can fly over London in a pirate ship, float by the children of the world and bounce through the forest in a honeypot. Fantasyland is where children at Walt Disney World typically begin to live out their dreams and adults melt away and let their inner child surface again and isn’t that what Walt Disney World is all about?

3 – Main Street U.S.A.

Main Street U.S.A from the Main Street Station. Photo by Chris Barry.

Walt imagined Disneyland as a living motion picture experience and as such, Main Street U.S.A. was to be your pathway to the other worlds, faraway places, and stories that he wanted you to experience. Main Street U.S.A. was supposed to be the familiar place that you meandered through on your way to these other worlds; a place that harkened back to a simpler and happier time and made you feel comfortable and at ease. It was that vibe that was to welcome you back after a day exploring the Old West or Outer Space or the exotic jungles of the world.  To me, Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom fulfills that promise. It sucks me right in each and every time that I walk under those railroad tracks. It’s the ultimate reveal. The movement of the Main Street vehicles, the happy “townspeople” waving at you, the incredible attention to detail in all of its buildings, and the view of that amazing castle at the end of the street luring you in all work together to help you escape the world you left behind and prepare you for the adventures you’re about to have. I feel like I’m at home as soon as I get there and I love returning to it at the end of every Magic Kingdom day.

2 – Wishes

Wishes explodes over Cinderella Castle. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Quite simply stated, there is nothing like Wishes, the nighttime fireworks extravaganza that takes place each night above the Magic Kingdom’s centerpiece Cinderella Castle.  Wishes has it all and is so very, very Disney. It features a remarkably wide range of Disney’s greatest pieces of music and character voices. Yet, it’s all interwoven into it’s own body of music. Much like the Magic Kingdom itself, it’s grand while still remaining simplistic. It’s not as much about the fireworks as it is about the emotion and the message that lay beneath.  When Tinker Bell flies overhead, when Jiminy Cricket speaks to you, and when those “shooting stars” fly above that beautiful castle you definitely feel something that you can’t feel anyplace else. It’s really the quintessential Walt Disney World moment for me and I’m sure for many of you out there.

1 – The Hidden Treasures

Animals carved into the gates of New Fantasyland. Photo by Chris Barry.

La Fontaine de Cendrillon - Cinderella Fountain in Fantasyland. Photo by Chris Barry.

I’m quite fond of paraphrasing a famous quote by saying that, “Walt Disney World is in the details.” Nowhere is this truer than at the Magic Kingdom. Stop, look and listen to the incredible treasures that are around every corner in this truly magical place. While I’m still mourning the loss of my rose garden from the central hub, I take solace in knowing that I can still gaze in wonder at the mosaic masterpiece inside Cinderella Castle or escape the craziness on a rocking chair on Tom Sawyer Island. I can admire the waterfall near Rapunzel’s tower and walk along the quiet waterfront of the River’s of America. The lush gardens of Adventureland still beckon and Tomorrowland’s lights at night will still enthrall. Don’t let the details escape you in a place so chock full of them as the Magic Kingdom and you’ll begin to really appreciate it to it’s fullest.

My favorite rocking chairs on Tom Sawyer Island. Photo by Chris Barry.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is truly special. It’s what most people think of when they picture Walt Disney World. I even love where it is within the resort. When Walt famously drew out his plans for his new world he placed the Magic Kingdom away from it all at the top of his property. Going to the Magic Kingdom feels like a journey. If you’re staying in a different area on property such as in the Epcot resort area, it takes a while to even get up there, as if it really is a faraway place. I love that if you drive there, you’re still not there. You have to board a futuristic monorail or cross a lagoon on a ferryboat just to get to it. It just increases the anticipation.

The Native American Village as seen from the Rivers of America. Photo by Chris Barry.

The Magic Kingdom is the place where my boys became a pirate or a space ranger. It’s the place where my little girl became a princess. It’s the place where my wife and I held hands and reconnected underneath a flying pixie and bursts of colors in the sky. It’s the place where the grown-up in me gets cast aside yet again and I become a wide-eyed child.

An idyllic brook in the new Tangled rest area. Photo by Chris Barry.

I hate to sound like a commercial, but it really is the place where dreams come true.  That fact and everything that I mentioned above and more will keep me coming back to the Magic Kingdom for as long as I can possibly imagine. It truly is the most magical place on Earth.

Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse from the Town Square in Main Street U.S.A. Photo by Chris Barry.

What do you all think about my list? Did I hit upon your favorite aspects of the Magic Kingdom? As always, I’d like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below; let me hear your thoughts and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.


  1. By DisneyGator

    Makes me sad that I'm "only" going to Disneyland this year. Sure, CA has more rides in the park, but the MK is so much larger and majestic.

  2. By DwarfPlanet

    Okay I'm going to be finicky, nit pick etc. I think you have alot more than five. Your number five contains three all by itself so pick one! I understand where you are coming from but don't give it a number that you surpass right off the bat. Space Mountain at WDW doesn't hold a candle to the one at DLR unless you enjoy getting the crap beat out of you. I like Splash Mountain but I am not a fan of getting wet. Thunder Mountain has been a favorite since I rode it years ago. The other four are not specific enough to really comment on other than "Yeah Magic Kingdom has some cool stuff in it".

  3. By JLM

    This entire list could just as easily apply to Disneyland.

    #5 - The Mountains: Disneyland's mountain range has one additional peak with the inclusion of The Matterhorn. BTM and SM are comparable between DL and MK, but the DL version of SM is definitly superior.

    #4 - I'm more of a fan of New Orlenes Square, but DL Fantasyland is still a crowdpleaser. Prior to the New Fantasyland extension at MK, the DL version was clearly superior with the bavarian theme, Mr. Toad still running, the Matterhorn and the Small World Clock. As of right now, I'd say it is a bit of a wash and when the 7 Dwarves Mine Train is open, MK will have the edge.

    #3 - Main Street: Meh... Main Street used to be cool, when there were actual games in the Penny Arcade, the Main Street transportation attractions operated regularly and it was populated by some nifty specialty shops. Now is is one big generic shopping strip with pretty paint. I agree that is sets the mood as you make your way into the parks and sucks on your wallet on the way out, but except for the Carnation Cafe and the Jolly Holliday Bakery there isn't much to make me linger.

    #2 - For DL, I'd replace the fireworks show with Fantasmic. Yes, there are no bleachers and your view is often impinged, but it is so much more grand compared the the show at Hollywood Studios. Peter Pan sequence on the Columbia? Fun! Dragon? Awesome! All the characters on the Mark Twain? Majestic! All of it up close? Fantasmic!

    #1 DL has its own set of hidden treasures. From Snow White's well to hidden treasure in the Tom Sawyer caves, from London Park being overun by giant ducks to the humorous tombstones outside the HM. There is always something new discover everytime I visit a Disney park.

    I know there is a bit of a DL/MK rivalry. I agree that MK is bigger, but DL, even though physically smaller, still manages to cram a lot of magic into the park. If MK is the more majestic of the two, then DL is the more intimate.

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